This blog has been submitted as an entry for GoEuro’s #travellessons competition!
3. Try local foods – you never know what you’ll love
My new food revelation was hardly earth-shattering. Pizza in Italy tastes better than pizza from Pizza Hut. During our 2015 Italy trip I couldn’t get enough of pizza, even being the one to suggest pizza-based meals. I’m not sure how open I’d be to trying some of the more “interesting” delicacies readily available further afield, but one things for sure, I’ll never be seeking out a McDonalds or Burger King on my travels. Unless you need a handy loo (see Amsterdam, New York…)
6. Have a plan but build in time to be flexible…
For our first USA trip, I planned everything meticulously. Where we would eat, what we would see, how long we would spend, how to get from A-B, when we would have toilet breaks… I even took an A4 ringbinder, with polypockets and dividers. Yes, think about how much room THAT took up in my suitcase. Over time, I’ve learnt that a holiday planned with military precision is not fun. For anyone.
“Right, you’ve looked at the Eiffel Tower for the planned 6 minutes and its time to catch the 12:50 metro to Montmartre, where we will have a 45-minute lunch at precisely 1:30”
I’m a lot more flexible these days, but I still like to have a plan of what we’d like to do and see, and a rough idea of where everything is, but I put a lot less pressure on myself now to make sure we have the “perfect” trip. Sometimes I even let Mr Fletche decide where to eat…
7. Find a good travel companion (or be a good travel companion to yourself)
If you’re going to be spending a significant time with another person it’s vital that your travel styles complement each others – or you are at least able to compromise. If you want museums and art galleries and early-morning walking tours, and your companion wants shopping, cocktails and long lie-ins, it’s going to need a bit of give and take to ensure you have the perfect trip and don’t end up becoming lifelong enemies. It’s good to find a companion who has qualities that you may lack – Mr Fletche is much more confident than I am dealing with people in new countries; but I am more organised in terms of an itinerary and what to see. Mr Fletche is happy renting a car and driving around; I’m an expert in scoping out public transport. Neither of us particularly love art galleries or museums or religious buildings, but we do love beautiful architecture, riverside walks, little bars where you can sit outside nursing a beer. I love libraries and bookshops and food halls. Mr Fletche loves early morning photo shoots. We always try and make sure that we both get as much as we can out of a trip, and sometimes it means doing these things together, or doing them separately.
8. Getting lost is part of the fun (most of the time)
In Krakow, we couldn’t find the Jewish Quarter, although it was practically opposite our hotel (we ended up walking along a dual carriageway somewhere out of town). Between Split and Zadar we decided to take a “detour” which ended up with Mr Fletche coaxing our rented Skoda through winding mountain roads. In Milan, we couldn’t find the (massive) Duomo, despite it being behind us all the time. In York, we came off the city walls and couldn’t find how to get back on them again. Getting lost is the best way to discover local areas or sights that may not have made it onto the tourist ticklist. In places like Venice, getting lost is practically the law. If you’re of a nervous disposition though, make sure you’ve got a pocket-sized map handy (not handy when you’ve walked off the map like we’ve done before) and a phone with GPS.
9. It’s ok to feel smug…
…when you’ve successfully negotiated connecting flights, when your suitcase arrives intact, when you’ve had a transaction with a shopkeeper who speaks no English, when you’ve successfully deciphered a railway schedule and caught a train from the right platform to the right destination. It’s OK to pat yourself on the back and say “I did good”.
10. It’s also ok to feel disappointed…
…if the weather is a bit crap. If a hotel or location or view doesn’t look like it did in the pictures. If a popular attraction is a building site. If a meal leaves you feeling a bit “meh”. It’s easy to dwell on these things – its your holiday, you’ve paid good money, you’ve used up valuable annual leave. But there would be very few people who could say that they have always, 100%, had amazing and positive experiences. Some things you can’t influence. Accept them. Some things you can. Use the experience to make different choices next time.
I’ve learnt that travel makes me happy, even when it doesn’t go as planned. I’ve learnt that there are so many places I want to visit, that I would need to live to 150 to even begin to visit everywhere on my list. I’ve learnt that I can’t travel as much as I would like (damn you 9-5 job) so instead I will vicariously travel, absorbing other people’s experiences and journeys in between. I’ve learnt that I love slow travel, taking time to enjoy my experiences and not cramming in all the tourist hotspots – after all, these places aren’t going anywhere and are ripe for a return visit.
Bonus lesson. Always have tissues and hand sanitizer with you. Needs no further explanation.
What valuable travel lessons have you learned? Let me know in the comments below!